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Tapering Before a Race – What Should You Do Before a Running Race?

Tapering before a race can often make or break your results. Reducing your training load heading into your goal event is just as important as the training itself. However, many people get this wrong and often taper too much or too little. So when should you start tapering before a race, and what should you do in the week and days leading up to the event?

Whether you are tapering for a marathon, half marathon, ultra, or a 5km, keep reading to find out why tapering before a race is so important.

How to Prepare for a Race the Week Before

No matter if you are running a 5k, marathon, or half marathon. Knowing how to prepare correctly for the race a week before will pay dividends come race day.

Too many times people end up training too little the week before a race. This often leads to the person feeling lethargic and leaving their legs feeling tired and drained. This is caused by the rapid decrease in training.

You see the body has been used to a steady flow of volume and intensity for the months leading up to the race. So, when this is rapidly reduced to the point where the body is not used to it, it often goes into a state of fatigue and tiredness. This often leads the runner to miss that bounce in their stride, they had the weeks leading up to the event.

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However, we have runners on the other end of the spectrum that train too much the week before the event. This is usually a result of either lack of training the months prior or the feeling that they aren’t fit enough.

Overtraining the week before the race often leaves the runner fatigued, unmotivated, and without any noticeable results on race day. So what is the best way to prepare for a race?

There are 3 key points when tapering the week before a race that you need to get right and that is:

– Reducing the right amount of load
– Keeping intensity during the week
– Having at least one rest day

No matter if you are running a 5k, marathon, half marathon, or ultra. Each event requires tapering if you want to see a good performance. This means reducing the load from previous weeks. However, each person is different and one person might only reduce their mileage by 50% whereas another might decrease it by 70%.

Unfortunately, there is no right or wrong. Reducing the right amount of load takes trial and error through training. But as a general rule of thumb reducing the overall load (volume/intensity) by 50-70% will bring you into the event well-rested. That means reducing the amount of speed work/intervals during race week and incorporating 1-2 rest days. The rest days will help shed any extra fatigue you may have incurred the previous weeks before the race.

Below is a basic layout of how tapering before a race might look for an experienced running

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Monday – Rest Day
Tuesday – Speedwork ( increased intensity but lower number of repetitions)
Wednesday – Easy recovery run
Thursday – Rest Day ( helps to shed any fatigue left from Tuesday)
Friday – Easy recovery run
Saturday – Shakeout run + stride outs
Sunday – Race Day

This type of tapering program can be used for most events up to the Marathon. Although this layout is more suited to a runner that has been running at least 70+km a week previously.

If you are a runner that runs less mileage you can still use the same layout but have an additional rest day (See below).

Monday – Rest Day
Tuesday – Speedwork ( increased intensity but lower number of repetitions)
Wednesday – Rest Day ( helps to shed any fatigue left from Tuesday)
Thursday – Easy recovery run
Friday – Rest Day
Saturday – Shakeout run + stride outs
Sunday – Race Day

Should You Run the Day Before a Race?

Should You Run the Day Before a Race?

As a coach, I often get asked if you should run the day before a race? Many people think that running the day before an event will impact your performance on race day. However, for most people this is incorrect.

A 15 to 20 minute run the day before the race will help get the blood flow to the muscles and help loosen up your muscles after tapering the week of the race. This is important especially if you have had multiple rest days during the week.

Running the day before a race is not only important to wake up the legs but it is also an important time to remind the body of speed. Your run should include some light jogging for 15-20 minutes followed by 5-6 stride-outs. The stride-outs allow you to open your stride and lungs while reminding your body that it can still run fast.

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However, it is important to remember that the stride-outs are there just to wake up the body and shouldn’t be performed anywhere close to 100%. It is also vital that you either jog or walk back slowly before performing another one.

If done right your pre-race run should leave you feeling fast, fit, and raring to go. So don’t overdo it.

Shakeout Run Day Before Race – What is it?

Your pre-race run or Shake out run the day before the race is a run used to wake up the body after the previous day’s rest or recovery run. This run is usually 15-30 minutes in duration and includes some small efforts to raise the heart rate and open the stride. A typical shakeout run the day before a race looks like this:

15-20 minutes easy jogging in zone 2 or under 75% max HR
Followed by 5-6×100 m stride outs, with walking or light jogging back to the start.

For the more experienced runner, you may find they run up to 30 minutes the day before and include more stride-outs after the run. However, this is very much trial and error and you will need to trial what works best for you.